LINCOLN ó If itís remembered at all, this was the day Scott Frostís voice cracked.
Purdue came into Memorial Stadium and won, Nebraska started 0-4, but the thing most were talking and writing about was Frostís emotional press conference.
When thatís the story, that says a lot about your team, and your season. But it says a lot about your coach, too.
This wasnít the start anyone signed up for, most of all Frost. And the moment seemed to hit him square between the eyes. It moved him.
As the lifelong Husker and first-year coach walked to the podium, his face was red. He looked like the inside of his head was swimming. He looked exasperated.
Iíve seen defeat a lot these last two decades, but never seen a Husker coach moved like this.
Bo Pelini could yell and get fired up and Mike Riley would say there were things to clean up, like a guy with a mop in a grocery store.
But Iíd never seen a coach so mad he was shaking, and this was Frost taking inventory of the Huskersí litany of mistakes and penalties.
When he said, ďIt kills me,Ē you believed it, because he sounded like he had a dagger in his heart.
When he started listing the mindless penalties, and threw in the backups and walk-ons who were dancing on the sideline to kickoff music while down 13, it wasnít meant to embarrass the kids. It was a Husker fan who had seen enough.
ďIím tired of looking at it,Ē said Frost, speaking for himself and an entire state.
The signature moment of the day came when Frost was asked why these things keep happening.
ďIíve got a sense of why, but I donít really want to say why because this is my team,Ē Frost said, and as he said ďmy team,Ē his eyes grew big and thatís when the voice cracked.
He continued, ďthis isnít somebody elseís team Ö Ē
Frost went on about how itís up to the team to draw the line and take responsibility, how you have to have guys who really care, and have an environment in which they are held accountable.
The coach was playing to his fan base, except this was no act. This was real, as real as the emotion washed over Frostís face.
The moment that voice cracked, it was as if Frost took a step back and saw the bigger picture. The native son takes this job very seriously. And not just the job, but the history, the legacy, the fans and the players and coaches who came before.
Frost feels a responsibility to them. And that moment, when he said ďmy team,Ē it was as if the weight of it all came crashing down.
Itís not the ego or the things the talking heads around the country are saying about the hotshot coach going 0-4, or the things they write about in Orlando. None of that matters here.
Itís about all those players who came to his introductory press conference, the kids who still want to slap his hand in the Tunnel Walk, the fans who stand behind him. Frost feels accountable to them. They are his bosses. And heís just as mad and stir crazy about this as they are.
Certainly thereís a level of embarrassment here, too. Weíve seen these penalties and slapstick before, but Frost has never been part of it at Nebraska. He demands a certain standard, but itís falling on some deaf ears.
I grew up with a father who was a high school football coach and teacher, and I saw firsthand the joys and frustrations of his job. At their core, coaches are teachers. And when kids pick up things they are taught, and do them on their own, thatís the greatest reward.
Thatís whatís eating Frost now, that he canít prevent this stuff. Maybe he was naive, and maybe we all were, at thinking this could be cleaned up in a jiff.
Undisciplined play? Guys hitting opponents while theyíre out of bounds and talking trash on top of the mistake? Right now, Frost looked like the guy who bought a house and keeps finding bad surprises under the floorboard and behind the drywall.
Heíll get more than enough time to fix it, because heís Frost, but also because of moments like Saturday, when he opened a vein and bled all over the state. Frost was the guy sitting next to you at the corner bar, complaining about this and that, and wondering when the heck the coach was going to figure it out.
The question now is, whatís he going to do about it?
Forget rock bottom. Whatís the ceiling of this season? Does it have one?
Nebraska, for all intents and purposes, said goodbye to a bowl game this season. What a bizarre day, with temps in the 40s and low gray clouds. It felt a lot like November, the end of the season. We havenít even hit October yet.
In many ways, it was the beginning of the rest of the season.
It looks like a two- or three-win season now, but you canít worry about trying to guess where the wins come from or how many. At this point, the season will be judged by how this thing looks at the end, at Iowa.
Is the team still playing hard? Fighting like the warriors Frost says he has?
Have the Huskers done anything about the penalties and mistakes, from the personal foul stuff that drives you insane to running a route or a scramble short of the first down?
There are talent issues here, sure, and talent can make up for some mistakes. But what ails this team now isnít about talent or the lack thereof. Itís all the lack of discipline.
How long does it take? Every coach is different. But know that tolerance and acceptance of these mistakes has been passed through the program for at least 14 years. The culprits have kept playing. Itís become part of the program, and that will take awhile to change. Quite possibly all of this season and into the next.
It may take flipping the roster, or benching some players in the short term. And while Frost wants to get his playersí buy-in by promoting fearlessness of failure, sometimes there needs to be fear for change to take place.
Meanwhile, Iíll stand by my preseason standard for success in 2018: finishing the year strong, playing good, passionate football and taking that momentum into the offseason.
The Huskers will likely have to do without a Heart of Dallas Bowl game in that equation, with coaches out recruiting in December. Maybe thatís a good trade-off.
For now, this season is about putting the head down, getting to work. Thereís a lot to clean up, a lot of foundation cracks to fill in.
Including the one in the coachís voice